For much of my adult life, I have been very independent. After graduating from high school in Hawaii, I moved to Kentucky for my undergraduate work (yes, I know this sounds crazy on many levels). After I got my degree I moved to Colorado, because, why not? I made these choices on my own and I paid for it on my own. I have worked continuously from the time I was 16 until I turned 34 when I quit the career I obtained a Masters Degree for, the career I worked in for 12 years and was objectively good at. I quit this career which I had dedicated almost half of my life in pursuit of to be a housewife and stay at home mom. And when I made this announcement to my friends and family I heard a resounding intake of breath followed by the somewhat insulting question, “But I thought you were a feminist?”
Yes. I thought so too. And I am. But it depends on who you ask, I guess. In her essay “Feminism with a Small f”, Buchi Emecheta discusses some of her philosophy surrounding the concepts of feminism and what they mean to her. She writes, “Being a woman, and African born, I see things through an African woman’s eyes. I chronicle the little happenings in the lives of the African women I know. I did not know that by doing so I was going to be called a feminist. But if I am now a feminist then I am an African feminist with a small f” (175). So, maybe I am a white middle-class feminist with a medium f? Can feminism really be only one thing and does it matter who provides the definition?
This essay resonated with me, particularly the passage where she states, “We need more Golda Meirs, we need more Indira Gandhis, we even need more Margaret Thatchers. But those who wish to control and influence the future by giving birth and nurturing the young should not be looked down upon. It is not a degrading job” (180). Making the choice to stay home with my children was an incredible privilege and I recognize that. And that does not make my contribution to society any less than if I had stayed in the workforce and put my children in daycare. I have struggled with feeling like I’m doing a great thing for my kids while at the same time feeling like I’ve been subordinating myself and degrading the work women have done for years to create equality with men.
I could continue rambling on about my fears surrounding what I’m doing to and for my three daughters. But I will end by saying that Emecheta confirmed in me that I am neither doing something extraordinary, nor am I doing something derogatory by choosing to nurture my children at home.
Emecheta, Buchi. “Feminism With A Small ‘f’!.” African Literature: An Anthology of Criticism and Theory. 173-185. Malden, MA: Blackwell, 2007. MLA International Bibliography. Web. 20 Oct. 2016.